According to Elizabeth “Betts” Doxtater of Everything Cornhusk, a local store and gallery in the Ohsweken Village Plaza, the cornhusk doll goes back to the time of Creation when corn was first given to the Haudenosaunee people.
The cornhusk doll is intentionally faceless to remind the people to remain humble and not become obsessed with appearances. So it is up to the children to use their imagination when playing with these toys.
“If the character is sad or happy they can picture that emotion on the dolls face” Elizabeth says, “The cornhusk doll was created to entertain the children and to help the parents teach them values.”
Faceless cornhusk dolls allowed Haudenosaunee children to explore a vast range of emotions in the abstract, which in turn created greater empathy – a key contributor to positive relationships and healthy communities.
In the coldest months of the winter the Haudenosaunee also perfected the art of storytelling through corn husk doll play and it became like a type of theatre. “Those stories warm you up,” continued Doxtater, “they keep the families warm.”
Expanding the imagination through cornhusk dolls and hearing vibrant stories from elders contrasted with the bleak winter landscapes. Cornhusk doll play was like a mental exercise for the human mind according to Doxtater.
Elizabeth Doxtater is a master craftsperson of the Six Nations people.
She has created a cornhusk doll installation called “Encircles Everything” which tells the story of the ratification of the Great Law and the journey of the Peacemaker. It is currently on display at Six Nations Tourism and will also be at McMaster University from Jan. 14th to April 2nd.
Be sure to see it and take in an important part of Haudenosaunee culture.